While Alistair McInnis was away for a late fall holiday, Allan Wishart did a great job filling in at the Prince George Free Press covering the local sports scene. This past weekend Wishart was in attendance as the Spruce Kings extended their win streak to six games and posted this article for the Wednesday issue of the local paper.
by Allan Wishart, Prince George Free Press
Liam Board (19) attracts some attention in front of the
Alberni Valley Bulldogs goal in Friday night's game
Even when the Spruce Kings win by more than one goal, it doesn't feel that way, says Dave Dupas.
"The Alberni Valley game was a one-goal game until the last few minutes," the Spruce Kings coach says of the 6-3 win Friday night at the Coliseum. "Coltyn Hansen scored to give us a two-goal lead and then he got the empty-netter."
Saturday, the Spruce Kings were right back to their one-goal ways, edging the West Kelowna Warriors 4-3 when Tyson Witala scored about two minutes into overtime.
The pair of wins gives the Spruce Kings six in a row, four of them by one goal.
"We'll keep taking them," Dupas says of the close wins. "We're finding ways to win, which is great. The other thing is it's somebody different stepping up each game. We're not relying on one or two players."
One player who did come in for special note from Dupas was 16 year-old goalie Liam McLeod, who got the start against Alberni Valley.
"Liam was playing against a team that scores a lot of goals and he held them off. He made some big saves when had to. That team, if they learn to play defense, they'll be tough because they can score."
Against West Kelowna, Dupas went back to Kirk Thompson and got exactly what he come to expect.
"Kirk keeps us in the game. He's very steady and he makes the saves when we need them."
Asked to name a couple of standouts from the weekend, Dupas paused.
"You'd have to go through the whole team. Everybody right now is doing what they're supposed to do. The penalty kill has been unbelievable and we're still blocking a lot of shots."
By the team's figures, they had more than 60 blocked shots in the two games, which Dupas says shows the team's dedication to playing hard at both ends.
"I wish we could win 3-0 every night, but that's not going to happen. There are some talented teams in this league and a lot of them can score goals."
The wins also moved the Spruce Kings into first place in the Mainland Division with 24 points, two ahead of the Chilliwack Chiefs, who have a game in hand. All five teams in the division are playing .500 or better so far this season. The Spruce Kings will see the two bottom teams this weekend when they travel to Langley (Friday) and Surrey (Saturday).
"This will be our fifth game against Langley already and all of them have been down there, so I guess we'll be seeing a lot of them up here as the goes along," Dupas says. "We've beaten them twice in overtime and they've beaten us twice by one goal."
"They're a physical team, so we can't let them establish that style. We have to get into out game."
While the Spruce Kings have beaten Surrey twice this year by three-goal margins, Dupas says this game could be closer.
"They didn't have a scorer before, but since they got Brady Shaw in a trade (with Coquitlam), he's been scoring a ton."
Shaw has four goals and six points in three games with the Eagles.
"We may go with a different game plan against them this time," Dupas says, "try to figure out a way to neutralize him."
The winning streak has also moved the Spruce Kings the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings for the first time this season. The Spruce Kings hold down the number 20 spot and are joined by BCHL foes Penticton (6) and Victoria (10), while Chilliwack received an Honourable Mention.